Lohse continues to quietly impress

ST. LOUIS – When asked to name the starting pitcher who led the 2011 World Series Champion Cardinals in both wins and ERA, even some in St. Louis likely wouldn’t say the correct answer of Kyle Lohse.
But despite having an even better season this year, Lohse seems to be flying under the radar nationally yet again.  And that appears to be just fine with him.
“I don’t really care,” Lohse said. “Like I’ve said before, I don’t play this game for that stuff. I like the fact that my teammates and my manager know what I’m doing and they appreciate that. Besides that, what am I going to do?”
The right-hander tossed six scoreless innings Sunday night to lead the Cardinals to a 3-0 win and a three-game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals outscored the Brewers 18-4 in the series, improving to 12-4 in their past 16 games as they look to make another late-season comeback in the standings.
And it was Lohse who helped make it happen Sunday night, allowing just four hits and striking out six while pitching around multiple base runners in both the third and fourth innings. He improved his record to 12-2 on the season and lowered his ERA to 2.79.
“To me you’re seeing a different pitcher, one that trusts his stuff and his defense and his catcher and gets out of those bad spots,” said manager Mike Matheny. “He’s been very impressive. I know he wants to finish strong and continue to do what he has because he believes in himself and this is the kind of pitcher he is.”
The word that describes Lohse best this year would be consistency. After struggling to a 10-18 record and a 5.54 ERA while pitching with a rare forearm condition in 2009-2010, the right-hander has felt the effects of being healthy the past two years.
He went 14-8 with a 3.39 ERA for the Cardinals last year and was chosen by manager Tony La Russa to start Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. He’s been even better this year.
Lohse went at least six innings for the 12th straight start Sunday and allowed two earned runs or less for the 16th time in 23 starts. He’s allowed more than three earned runs just three times all year. Sunday marked his 17th quality start.
“I feel like it’s just a continuation of what I did last year,” Lohse said. “I know I had a little bit of a rough middle part of the season but you look at the season as a whole and I felt like I did a good job and this year I’m just building off that.
“I have an idea of what I’m trying to do out there and just going out and executing it and putting a good game plan together. It’s fun out there to just throw strikes and let the defense work.”
But Lohse has been so good the past two years that he might be pricing himself out of St. Louis for the future. The 33-year-old will hit the open market this winter and could command more than his current 4-year, $41 million contract that will expire at the end of the season.
If his uncertain future has been a distraction, he certainly hasn’t shown it. And he doesn’t figure to let it become an issue anytime soon.
“No, it’s part of the game,” Lohse said. “Obviously when you go home at night you wonder what next year is going to bring but that’s part of being a professional, being able to come to the field and all that matters is this year and trying to get into the playoffs. I’ll worry about next year when the season’s over.”
The Cardinals hope that means late October or early November. And if he continues to pitch like this, Lohse could have a strong say in making that happen.